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Richard Russell Archives > JFK Facts

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Rankin: ‘We have an explanation there in the autopsy that probably a fragment came out the front of the neck’

“We have an explanation there in the autopsy that probably a fragment came out the front of the neck.”

— Warren Commission Counsel J. Lee Rankin, in an executive session of Jan. 27, 1964. The official autopsy report contains no such statement, though there are some indications in the record that an early conclusion was that JFK’s throat wound was caused by the exit of a bullet fragment from the head shot. Autopsy witness Richard Lipsey, for instance, told the HSCA that the autopsy doctors discussed this.

There are reasons to believe that the original autopsy report was rewritten, and may have disappeared with the president’s brain and other materials while in Robert Kennedy’s hands. See this discussion by Assassination Records Review Board senior staffer Douglas Horne (part 1 and part 2). Later in the same session, Commissioner Richard Russell aptly observed of the medical evidence: “This isn’t going to be something that would run you stark mad?”

“40 million Americans…”

“…we’ve got to take this out of the arena where they’re testifying that Khrushchev and Castro did this and did that and kick us into a war that can kill 40 million Americans in an hour…”

– President Johnson, telling Senator Richard Russell why he has been named to the Warren Commission.

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